Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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The Retired Oakland Police Officers Association obtained a writ of mandate against the Oakland Police and Fire Retirement System directing that master police officer-terrorism pay (MPO pay) be included in the calculation of pension benefits. Under the retirement system, a retiree’s pension is a fixed percentage of the compensation currently “attached to the average rank” held by the retiree at the time of retirement. The court of appeal reversed. The trial court erred in concluding that MPO pay is “compensation attached to . . . rank” as required by the Oakland City Charter for inclusion in pension benefits. In 2009-2015, MPO pay was paid to all officers who had completed 20 years of service in the Department; maintained fully effective overall performance appraisals during the assignment; attended and completed an approved anti-terrorism/law enforcement response course; and been assigned to the patrol division. The requirement that an officer be assigned to the patrol division to receive MPO pay compels the conclusion that MPO pay is not attached to the officer’s rank. The agreement that added MPO pay did not restructure the relevant ranks or create an additional step within an existing rank. View "Retired Oakland Police Officers Association v. Oakland Police and Fire Retirement System" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Roger Myers, Dave Billings, Greg Neyhart, and Jim Mestas were nonexempt maintenance technicians for Raley’s grocery stores. Plaintiffs alleged they were required to drive company vehicles carrying their own tools as well as specialized tools, and they were not allowed to run personal errands without special permission or carry passengers who were not Raley’s employees except in an emergency. Despite Raley’s control over their driving time, they were not compensated for the time they spent driving to their first store or driving home from the last store they service each day. They claimed Raley’s uniform practice violated California law. These uniform policies and practices, according to the technicians, presented common issues of fact and law and their legality were particularly well suited to a class action. In denying class certification, the trial court made the conclusory finding plaintiffs failed to establish that a well-defined community of interest exists and that the common issues of fact and law predominate. The Court of Appeal determined that because the trial court’s cursory finding rendered its review "impossible," and because cases decided after the trial court’s ruling exposed the dangers of employing the wrong legal criteria, asking the wrong questions, or inflating the significance of the opposing parties’ evidence, the Court of Appeal remanded this case back to the trial court for reconsideration in light of Ayala v. Antelope Valley Newspapers, Inc., 59 Cal.4th 522 (2014) and Jones v. Farmers Ins. Exchange, 221 Cal.App.4th 986 (2013), and for a statement of reasons to ensure the court did not use improper criteria or rely on erroneous legal assumptions. View "Myers v. Raley's" on Justia Law

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Commissioner, on behalf of preschool teachers employed by the Temple, filed suit alleging that the Temple violated various provisions of the Labor Code by failing to provide its preschool teachers with rest breaks, uninterrupted meal breaks, and overtime pay. The trial court granted summary judgment for the Temple and held that the Commissioner's claims were barred by the ministerial exception. The Court of Appeal reversed and held that the teachers were not "ministers" for purposes of the ministerial exception. In this case, although the Temple's preschool curriculum has both secular and religious content, its teachers were not required to have any formal Jewish education, to be knowledgeable about Jewish belief and practice, or to adhere to the Temple's theology. Furthermore, the Temple did not refer to its teachers as "ministers" or the equivalent, nor did the teachers refer to themselves as such. Therefore, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Su v. Stephen S. Wise Temple" on Justia Law

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Following the termination of his employment, plaintiff Fernando Martinez sued Stephen Stratton O’Hara (O’Hara), Career Solution and Candidate Acquisitions (CSCA), O’Hara Family Trust, OCRE, Inc., Professional Realty Council, Inc., and Pacific Valley Realty, Inc. (collectively, defendants) alleging five employment-related claims. Plaintiff’s wage claim was resolved before trial and his fraud claim was dismissed when the trial court granted defendants’ motion for nonsuit. A jury returned a verdict awarding a total of $8,080 in damages on the claim for sexual harassment in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Following a bench trial of plaintiff’s remaining claims seeking an injunction for unfair advertising and unfair business practices, the trial court found in favor of defendants. Plaintiff moved for attorney fees, which was denied. Plaintiff appealed the fee order, but the Court of Appeal affirmed. The Court reported plaintiff’s attorney Benjamin Pavone to the California State Bar for manifesting gender bias: the notice of appeal signed by Mr. Pavone on behalf of plaintiff referred to the ruling of the female judicial officer as “succubustic.” The Court published this portion of the opinion to make the point that gender bias by an attorney appearing before the Court would not be tolerated. Furthermore, the attorney was reported to the Bar for a statement in the notice of appeal suggesting the trial court attempted to thwart service of the signed judgment on plaintiff in an effort to evade appellate review and statements in the appellate briefs he signed on behalf of plaintiff accusing the judicial officer who ruled on the motion for attorney fees of intentionally refusing to follow the law. None of these serious charges was supported by any evidence. View "Martinez v. O'Hara" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of plaintiff's request for entry of a default judgment against Noble and dismissal of the case. The trial court denied the request because plaintiff failed to comply with the trial court's order to distribute 25 percent of the penalties to be allocated under the Labor Code Private Attorney General Act of 2004 (PAGA) to the 23 aggrieved employees in a pro rata amount. The court held that PAGA civil penalties must be distributed to all aggrieved employees. In this case, allocation of 25 percent to all aggrieved employees was consistent with the statutory scheme under which the judgment binds all aggrieved employees, including nonparties. The court also held that the trial court did not err in dismissing the case where the order of dismissal was the result of plaintiff's decision not to submit a default judgment in compliance with the trial court's order, not Noble's failure to defend the action. View "Moorer v. Noble LA Events, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a class action complaint alleging causes of action for violations of the Labor Code and the Industrial Welfare Commission's (IWC) wage orders based on the City's alleged failure to pay workers employed as pages and recreation leader specialists wages at or above the statewide minimum wage. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the trial court's dismissal of their action after it sustained without leave to amend the City's demurrer. The Court of Appeal held that legislation setting a statewide minimum wage, generally applicable to both private and public employees, addresses the state's interest in protecting the health and welfare of workers by ensuring they can afford the necessities of life for themselves and their families. Therefore, the Legislature may constitutionally exercise authority over minimum wages, despite the constitutional reservation of authority in charter cities to legislate as to their municipal affairs. In this case, the court held that the trial court erred in sustaining the City's demurrer where the state minimum wage law was designed to address a statewide concern for the health and welfare of workers and was reasonably related to its purpose. Furthermore, the application of the minimum wage requirement did not unconstitutionally impair the memorandum of understanding between plaintiffs and the City. View "Marquez v. City of Long Beach" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Mark Correia and Richard Stow sued their former employer, NB Baker Electric, Inc. (Baker), alleging wage and hour violations and seeking civil penalties under the Private Attorney General Act of 2004 (PAGA). Baker responded by petitioning for arbitration under the parties' arbitration agreement. The agreement provided that arbitration shall be the exclusive forum for any dispute and prohibited employees from bringing a "representative action." The trial court granted the arbitration petition on all causes of action except for the PAGA claim. On the PAGA claim, the court followed the California Supreme Court decision in Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC, 59 Cal.4th 348 (2014), and the California Court of Appeal decision in Tanguilig v. Bloomingdale's, Inc., 5 Cal.App.5th 665 (2016). The trial court stayed the PAGA claim pending the conclusion of the arbitration. Baker contended the court erred because: (1) plaintiffs' response to its arbitration petition was untimely; (2) Iskanian was no longer binding as it was inconsistent with a recent United States Supreme Court decision, Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, 138 S.Ct. 1612 (2018); and (3) the parties' arbitration agreement should have been interpreted to mean that if the representative-action waiver was unenforceable, the PAGA claim for statutory penalties remained subject to arbitration. The Court of Appeal determined the trial court acted within its discretion in considering plaintiffs' response to the arbitration petition despite that plaintiffs filed the response after the statutory deadline. Furthermore, Iskanian was still good law: "Although the Epic court reaffirmed the broad preemptive scope of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), Epic did not address the specific issues before the Iskanian court involving a claim for civil penalties brought on behalf of the government and the enforceability of an agreement barring a PAGA representative action in any forum." Therefore, the Court concluded the trial court properly ruled the waiver of representative claims in any forum is unenforceable. The Court rejected Baker's contention the court erred in failing to order plaintiffs' PAGA claim to arbitration. "We are aware the federal courts have reached a different conclusion regarding the arbitrability of a PAGA representative claim, but find these decisions unpersuasive because the courts did not fully consider the implications of the qui tam nature of a PAGA claim on the enforceability of an employer-employee arbitration agreement. Moreover, although we provided Baker the specific opportunity to do so, it failed to identify a sound basis for this court to apply the federal decisions on this issue." View "Correia v. NB Baker Electric, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this declaratory relief action, the trial court ruled the Orange County Department of Education (Employer) had to pay approximately $3.3 million in additional contributions to fund pension benefits promised to its employees. Employer argued the Court of Appeal should independently review the legal issues raised in its complaint because the judgment arose from an order granting a motion for judgment on the pleadings. Applying this standard, the Court nevertheless reached the same conclusion as the trial court: the requested payment from Employer, which related to an unfunded liability of its employees’ pension benefits, was permissible and did not violate the California constitution. View "Mijares v. Orange Co. Employees Retirement System" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Jorge Fierro filed suit on behalf of himself and others like him against defendant Landry's Restaurants, Inc., seeking remedies for what Fierro alleged to be Landry's Restaurants's violations of specified California labor laws and wage orders. Landry's Restaurants demurred to the complaint on the basis that each of the causes of action was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. As to Fierro's individual claims, the trial court overruled the demurrer, concluding that the statute of limitations defense did not appear affirmatively on the face of the complaint. As to the class claims, the trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend on the basis that a prior class action with identical class claims against Landry's Restaurants had been dismissed for failure to bring the case to trial in five years as required by Code of Civil Procedure sections 583.310 and 583.360. Under the "death knell" doctrine, Fierro appealed that portion of the order sustaining without leave to amend the demurrer to the class claims. Previously, the Court of Appeal issued an opinion reversing the order on the basis that the applicable statutes of limitations on the class claims had been tolled. However, the California Supreme Court granted review and transferred the matter to the Court of Appeal with directions to vacate the opinion and to reconsider the cause in light of the United States Supreme Court's opinion in China Agritech, Inc. v. Resh, 138 S.Ct. 1800 (2018) an opinion issued following the filing of the appellate court's opinion but before issuance of the remittitur. After vacating its decision, the Court of Appeal requested and received supplemental briefing from the parties as to the potential application of China Agritech to the issues presented in this appeal. In determining whether the statutes of limitations barred Fierro's class claims, the Court of Appeal concluded there was no basis on which to apply equitable (or any other form of) tolling. Although that determination will result in at least some of the class's claims being time-barred, on the record, the Court could not say that all of the class's claims were untimely. Thus, the Court reversed the order sustaining Fierro's demurrer without leave to amend and remanded for further proceedings in which the trial court could decide, on a more developed record, issues related to class certification and/or timeliness of class claims. View "Fierro v. Landry's Restaurant, Inc." on Justia Law

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Former employees of Dark Horse filed suit alleging wage and hour claims on behalf of themselves and other similarly situated employees. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's denial of plaintiffs' motion for class certification. The court held that, in denying the motion for class certification, the trial court used improper criteria or erroneous legal assumptions, which affected its analysis of whether plaintiffs' claims and one of defendant’s defenses presented predominantly common issues, suitable for determination on a class basis. Accordingly, the court remanded to the trial court to reconsider and redetermine the motion for class certification. View "Jimenez-Sanchez v. Dark Horse Express, Inc." on Justia Law